The 7 Dumbest Mistakes To Avoid In Planning Your Welcome Week Experience (Or Any Event)


If you want something done well, do it yourself. The only trouble is, then, you do EVERYTHING, and you do it alone. Stop being a rugged individualist and get some help! Here’s a Collegiate Empowerment mantra for you: “Life’s too short to do the things you suck at!” Leave your Superman Cape & Wonder Woman Invisible Jet home. Hire a professional to help you.

“But an outside speaker costs too much.” You might be right. However, being cheap can be very expensive. For example, you try to save a buck or two by having a local community leader come to your campus to speak for free, but s/he gets there late, isn’t prepared, can’t relate to college students, and doesn’t know what to do when the A/V won’t work. And you sit there sinking deeper into your front row seat hoping that your VP in the back of the room doesn’t see you (you = the one who decided to bring this “expert” to your campus). Plus, your students are sleeping. Great, you saved money. But at what cost?

This also applies to comedians, hypnotists, variety acts, and even some musicians.



If your event is boring, people will never remember you. If your event is inspiring, you will never be forgotten. Whatever message you convey must be able to inspire your students. Your mind never forgets what your heart remembers. Whether you work with us at Collegiate Empowerment, another outside expert, or do it yourself, whatever you do, don’t be boring!

Research has proven the participants retain only 20% of straight lecture. Most “lecturers” focus on content. Not us. It’s all about context: the student. People retain up to 90% of what they actively learn through call-backs, journaling, sharing, exercises, games, tools, and reflection. AND, it also has to be high-energy, engaging, interactive, and fun! If you can pull this off without pulling out your hair, then go be awesome! If not, we are ready to make you look like a hero.



The best seminar timeframe is from 10am-4pm. You may opt for a continental breakfast; just don’t start before 9am; it’s simply too early for the average college student. As for the ending time, try to wrap up by 4pm. It’s also nice to offer the students a parting dinner or meal.

This rule can be bent for leadership retreats. The days are usually longer, so schedule plenty of breaks. A “retreat” is a strategic withdrawal into safety or seclusion to reflect and plan. Participants should feel refreshed and energized afterwards.

If it's orientation and welcome week, then of course the days are long and the nights are longer. Use the next tip to avoid having tired and annoyed students.



The mind can only absorb what the butt cheeks can tolerate. Don’t over-program! Keep your session times short: no more than 90 minutes (less than the length of a movie). This is critical for new students and mandatory events. Here’s another CE mantra: “In their thirst for knowledge, people are drowning in all the information!” You’ve got to identify the three primary goals of your event and no more. Teach a lot, learn a little. Teach a little, learn a lot.

Countless schools over-program for their students. Do not have every single campus constituency speak. It’s overwhelming. Remember, your goal is not only to have a successful event, but that you are creating an expectation for all of your future events. If you bomb on this one, your students aren’t going to look too favorably on any future events that you sponsor.



When possible, say NO to gyms and big outside tents. Gyms are intended for sports where participants are meant to sweat. Basketball is not played on a stage; presentations should not be made on a court. Plus, the acoustics in a gym are terrible. And tents are for kids birthday parties and circus acts. Some schools can pull off the tent events – just tell the clowns to stay home. Use the best venue possible so that the event is best-received.

Students will remember how you treated them at orientation the next time you're marketing an event to them.



Students are human beings, not cattle. Please, please, please do not cram 1,000 people into a venue that only holds 800, and don’t rush students between sessions. If you treat students like cattle, they will act like cattle and in turn treat you like the cowboy/cowgirl holding a cattle poker. Teach your students how to treat you and your campus community.

Pick the right venue – a theater, auditorium, or large multipurpose room. If you don’t have a venue to support your entire group, consider hosting separate sessions. This might sound like more effort, but trust our experience: it’s more effective to create a quality experience for a smaller crowd than to create a miserable experience for a larger crowd.

And when you usher students through a day/week of sessions or events, provide plenty of time to (1) get from point A to point B, (2) use the facilities or grab a snack, and (3) meet other students and network. Many times we forget that while encouraging networking, the events tend to limit free time needed for networking.



Student development is like taking a shower…If you only do it once, they’ll stink. Funny, but true. If there is one thing that we at Collegiate Empowerment are dedicated to, it is changing in the model of student development and training from a once-a-year event to a consistent process. Showering, exercising, learning a new language, and most other things in life are a process, not a one-time event.

Try this: from now on have orientation programming and leadership training FOUR times a year. How? Two sessions in the fall and two in the spring. You will witness major transformations in the students, professionals, and organizations that you serve.

If it's first-year programming, you've got to have a "Welcome To College, Now Make The Most Of It" program. Then of course you've got to integrate alcohol education as well as sexual assault programming. That's three programs, and you probably should do all of them before October. And you do want your students to become student leaders and have an impact on the campus and the culture, so any sort of leadership event is the obvious next phase of your retention plan.

If you're not telling your captured audience how to get involved, when to get involved, and what programs are coming up next, you're missing out on a HUGE marketing opportunity. They're sitting RIGHT THERE! Tell them what's happening over the next three weeks. Spark some interest. Do it in a fun and memorable way. But do it often.


COMMENT BELOW and let us know what other mistakes you've seen that we all need to avoid for the sake of our students!